Sounding and Tracking Observatory for Regional Meteorology (STORM) Constellation Program Status and Sensor Update

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Wednesday, 7 January 2015
Scott M. Jensen, Utah State University Advanced Weather Systems Foundation, North Logan, UT; and D. Kirk-Davidoff, E. M. Housley, and K. D. Larsen

Historically, governments of the world have launched their own satellites and procured their own weather data. Many nations have weather data sharing agreements in place so that all can benefit from each other's satellite data. No governments have purchased weather data from commercial entities in the past as a sole point of reliance for weather data solutions. However, the U.S. government is preparing to look to commercial entities for weather data services beginning in 2016, as current government assets, including the GOES satellites, may begin to fail, leaving critical holes in domestic weather capability. Tempus Global Data has teamed up with Utah State Universities Advanced Weather Systems Foundation (USU/AWS), and soon to be announced, strategic partners, to fly the Sounding and Tracking Observatory for Regional Meteorology (STORM) sensor.

The hyperspectral sounder technology employed in STORMô was developed, built and tested as a NASA program, known as GIFTS, at a significant cost prior to program cancellation due to government budget constraints. GIFTS was built and successfully tested on behalf of NASA by, Utah State University's Space Dynamic Laboratories (SDL) and the University of Wisconsin's Space Science and Engineering Center (SSEC). GIFTS was scheduled to launch in 2006, but the instrument and the follow-on mission was cancelled. Utilizing additional research funding, SDL updated the GIFTS design and the sensor was renamed STORMô. At this time, Utah State University set up a sister foundation to SDL called USU/AWS) to pursue the new opportunity of commercial weather data sales, and a privately funded weather system. STORMô is equipped to fly on a commercial communications satellite, as a hosted payload, launching as early as late 2017.

The STORMô instrument is an imaging infrared spectrometer designed for atmospheric soundings. It measures the infrared spectrum in two spectral bands (14.6 to 8.8 µm, 6.0 to 4.4 µm) using two 128128 detector arrays with a spectral resolution of 0.57 cm-1 with a scan duration of ~11 seconds. From a geosynchronous orbit, the instrument will have the capability of taking successive measurements of such data to scan desired regions of the globe, from which atmospheric status, cloud parameters, wind field profiles, and other derived products can be retrieved. Ground based testing of the GIFTS EDU measurement experiment, held in Logan, Utah at the Space Dynamics Laboratory during September 2006, demonstrated its extensive capabilities for earth observing environmental measurements, and fulfilling the emerging needs of more accurate, more available, less expensive weather systems.

Tempus Global Data, Inc. will sell the data it gathers to clients worldwide. The total addressable market from sovereign governments, military agencies and commercial enterprises is estimated to be extremely large. Given the uniqueness of the data collected, Tempus will also have the ability to sell into markets that have not previously purchased weather data. Each customer can purchase from a highly attractive, unparalleled suite of data products that enable confidence in risk mitigation decisions and heighten meteorological intelligence. The first STORMô instrument will be placed in orbit over Asia and the Pacific region. Five future instruments will be placed in orbit, every six months, to create a true global constellation.

This presentation will explore the advantages and challenges of a commercial launch, including implications for affordability and wide use of the weather data among the government and commercial market sectors. We will also give a brief technical overview of the sensor system and scientific merits.